As a body worker and educator of the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® (ATMAT), I’m dedicating this article to fertility from a bodywork perspective. Whether you have fertility challenges, or you’re preparing to get pregnant, you should plan at least three months prior to trying to conceive. The body starts to recruit the eggs at least three months prior to ovulation. So, everything you do or don’t do during that time will affect the health of the eggs. The same is true for men; the sperm takes about the same amount of time to mature (about 72 days from start to maturity), so everything men do or don’t do during those three months is just as important. For instance, greater than 200mg daily of caffeine is toxic to sperm and is linked to chromosomal abnormalities. Zinc is important for spermatogenesis and promotes sperm motility. Vitamin C has been found to increase sperm count, motility, and viability. Here’s is a wonderful article about optimizing male fertility. Preparing for conception is shared between both you and your partner. Supporting each other in this journey by consciously planning for pregnancy together can be a beautiful bonding experience. Arvigo® Therapy is important for male reproductive health as well. Ideally, both the male and female receive the Arvigo® Therapy and learn the self-care massage.
Step #1 Try Not To Get Pregnant
It’s my experience as an Arvigo® practitioner that many couples find out about ATMAT for fertility after they have exhausted all other options. They have been trying to conceive for years, they may have tried IVF or IUI with no luck, and may feel pressure from their physicians because of their age. So it’s easy to understand why they look at me like I’m crazy (you know, the “Whatcha talkin’ ’bout Willis” look) when I tell them to try not to get pregnant for three months. That said, I still see women on occasion get pregnant after one treatment. My best guess is that the massage corrected a kinked fallopian tube in those cases. The reasons I ask women to try not to conceive during those three months of treatment include: 1) giving your uterine lining time to cleanse and rebuild give you the best chance of conceiving, avoiding miscarriage and having a healthy baby 2) three months is an ideal time to make uterine positional corrections 3) you can’t do the self-care massage if you might possibly be pregnant (in the first 20 weeks anyway). Trying to conceive during the first three months of treatment means that you lose about two weeks of self-care each month, possibly pushing your conception time further out than if you just waited the three months to try to conceive. 4) having an aligned pelvis and uterus while pregnant can help prevent low back pain, constipation, hemorrhoids, poor circulation, incontinence, and difficult labor and delivery.
How Abdominal Therapy Helps With Fertility: The Five Systems of Flow
Your body already knows what to do and is constantly working to maintain homeostasis (balance within), but because of poor physical alignment, emotional or physical trauma, lifestyle and dietary choices, and environmental pollution, our bodies struggle to maintain that internal balance. Homeostasis relies on unobstructed flow of the arterial, venous, lymph, nerve and chi (energy) channels. Bodywork can be a valuable way to help ensure unobstructed flow.
The arterial system brings oxygenated blood, nutrients, and hormones to every cell of the body. If the uterus is out of position or if we have poor pelvic alignment and tight muscles, we most likely have poor circulation in the pelvis. This could result in poorly nourished reproductive organs and their supporting ligaments.
The venous system carries deoxygenated blood, waste and carbon dioxide away from the tissues. If the venous circulation is impeded, carbon dioxide and waste products accumulate. As a result, harmful acids build up, resulting in pain and poor function of the organs. Venous congestion leads to varicosities in the uterus that can result in heaviness in the pelvis and undiagnosed pelvic pain. Ovarian varicosities can lead to disturbance in the communication between the ovaries and the hypothalamus, resulting in less than optimal levels of estrogen and/or progesterone.
The lymphatic system carries away toxins, excess fluids, and cellular debris and is our major line of defense against bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Like the arterial and venous systems, lymph can be affected by the mal-aligned uterus, tight muscles, poor structural alignment, and tight clothing. (That’s why it’s always sweatpants time in the Loomis household.) Restriction in the flow of lymph allows pathological debris to accumulate, causing acidity, pain, swelling, and inflammation.
The nervous system coordinates all bodily functions. Muscle spasms, mal-positioned or enlarged organs, and scar tissue can obstruct the nerve channels. Basically, if there is congestion, toxic accumulation, or restriction, the hormonal feedback loop can be compromised.
Chi (energy) flows through the blood and energy meridians of the body, as well as around the outside of the body. Chi is restricted when the other systems of flow are restricted, or from emotional and physical stress.
More than Belly Massage
When most people hear about ATMAT they think of “belly massage,” but it is so much more than belly massage. A large part of the treatment is performed on the back, hips, sacrum, and ligaments of the coccyx (tailbone) to reduce scar tissue, and congestion around the pudendal nerve, and to ensure proper alignment of the pelvis. Your ATMAT practitioner will also massage the low back and the muscles around the lumbar vertebrae. The suspensory ligaments of the ovaries attach to fascial connections of L3 (the third lumbar vertebra of the low back). The suspensory ligaments of the ovaries contain blood and lymph vessels, so if you have a tight quadratus lumborum (the muscle that attaches from the posterior iliac crest to the transverse processes of L1-5 and the 12th rib) this could affect the blood flow and/or position of the ovaries!
You might find videos and instructions in books for fertility massage, but for the full benefits, see a Certified Arvigo® practitioner to receive the posterior work as well as the complete abdominal work. Keep in mind that if you have a retroverted uterus (the uterus is tipped back toward the rectum) it is important to see a Certified Arvigo® practitioner who is trained in doing the retroversion technique or a Visceral Manipulation™ practitioner who has completed VM3. I’m trained in both approaches and use what makes sense for the individual. They are both excellent techniques, but very different.
Abdominal therapies will help create an unobstructed flow of the five channels so the body can maintain homeostasis, making it easier for you to get pregnant.
Cleansing and Building – Preparing your body for pregnancy
As mentioned above, these techniques have a cleansing and building effect on the uterus. Usually, in the first three months of starting the abdominal self-care massage, a woman may experience a change in her menstrual flow. Women have reported their menstrual blood looking like coffee grounds or darker brown blood, which could be dried or old toxic blood from prior months. Usually, by the third month, women experience bright red oxygenated blood with less cramping.
With proper flow, the uterus is able to build a nice fluffy bed to nourish a growing embryo. Dr. Rosita Arvigo put it this way: think of it as preparing the crib with loving intention for your newborn baby. Your uterus is going to be the crib for your baby for nine months or so. The cleansing and building may take time, which is another reason to give yourself at least three months to prepare your body for pregnancy.
“How can a healthy fruit grow on a sick vine whose supply of nutrients and water has been consistently poor? There are multiple factors to be considered during pregnancy that determines the health of the infant. A major contributing cause to weak newborns is the weak, undernourished uterus.”- Dr. Rosita Arvigo.
The human body is amazing and is always working toward achieving optimal health. Be compassionate, patient and kind to yourself. Be your own best friend. When we make better choices for our health, it is an expression of self-love. Self-care=self-love.
ATMAT is affordable. The average cost for a three-month ATMAT protocol is around $330-$430 (depending on your geographical area and expertise of the ATMAT practitioner). That’s about four sessions on average. On the other hand, an IVF cycle can run $15,000 or more. Considering that some couples may need several cycles it can add up to be more than $60,000! By the way, if you do go the IVF route, it is still possible to receive ATMAT sessions, read more here.
After reading about all of the advantages of preparing your body for conception and you still don’t want to wait three months to try to conceive, we also have a one-month fertility protocol. If you don’t get pregnant in the first month, you can resume your treatments between post menses and pre-ovulation.
To find an ATMAT practitioner near you, click here.
Learn the uterine Self-Care massage and more in one of my upcoming classes: